Baldknobbers Jamboree | Shows in Branson Missouri
Branson Missouri's First Variety Show
I've long said I wanted to visit Branson, Missouri, to see some of the famous shows I'd heard so much about, but until recently, I'd never found the time. This weekend, finally, I made it there, and had a chance to take in the Baldknobbers Jamboree, the longest running musical variety show in Branson.
My husband and I were both pleased and a little saddened by the experience. Keep reading to learn why, and to discover more about Branson and why it appeals to people from around the globe.
How to Get to Branson
Branson's in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Besides its famous shows, the area offers gorgeous scenery, plentiful fishing, and friendly faces.
Branson is a small place with a big reputation. I had moved to the Ozarks in 1993, when I first attended basic training as a soldier and quickly was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, about three hour drive from Branson.
Like most soldiers, I made trips to Springfield and saw dozens of billboards advertising Branson shows. Some looked fascinating while others made me wonder why anyone would spend good money on them.
Before long, I heard about Silver Dollar City, a theme park built to attract visitors to Marvel Cave (formerly known as Marble Cave). I'm an adrenaline junkie, so this was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Branson.
Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley, and Chinese Acrobats all sounded interesting enough, but caves and roller coasters? Yes, please!
Unfortunately, I'm a terrible planner at times, and each time I heard another warning about how difficult getting show tickets can be, I cringed and postponed going.
Last weekend, however, a friend asked me to look at a house near Branson. He was considering making an offer on it, and knowing I'm a Realtor, asked for my advice. I decided the time had come for my trip. If I couldn't see a show, at least it wouldn't be a wasted trip. I offered to look the house over for him.
The first thing we saw as my husband and I reached town was Branson Landing. One moment we were driving in the Ozarks, and the next we crossed a bridge and found ourselves in a bustling area with pedestrians who were out enjoying the fantastic sunny day.
The Landing was the first place we noticed - a collection of restaurants, shops, and attractions situated along the shore of Lake Taneycomo. I'd have guessed Lake Taneycomo was a river from the looks of it. It's narrow and seemed to be lined with boats. At best, I'd have guessed it was a "finger" jutting off a larger lake, but no. It's a very narrow, long lake reputed to have excellent opportunities for trout fishermen.
But I digress...
The Landing offers fine dining, fast food, hotels, concerts, and boating attractions. Although the mall is open year-round, June through September is considered "in season." You'll find most of the attractions and live performances then, but beware - you'll need comfortable walking shoes! Getting around by car can be tricky because bumper-to-bumper traffic packs the streets from the moment you enter Branson at the Landing and doesn't ease until you leave from the other side of town!
Because it was late afternoon by the time we arrived, my husband and I hoped for nothing more than to find a room and, if we were lucky, a show we could enjoy before bed. After all, I had an appointment in the morning!
Where to Stay in Branson
Because we arrived in mid-April, we had no problem finding a room. Hotels and motels lined the main roads, and most of them were attached to huge theaters and restaurants.
"This is like Las Vegas without the slot machines," I remarked to my husband. He agreed.
I was surprised at how many rooms were advertised for around $40 a night. I'd have expected to shell out at least $90! We drove the entire length of Main Street - a couple of miles or so - and took in the sights before deciding on one.
We saw the Titanic Museum, Ripley's Odditorium, the Wax Museum, and other eye-catching buildings that looked somehow interesting and cheesy at the same time.
My husband pointed out the Baldknobber's marquis. "I saw that show when they came to Kansas when I was a kid. It'd be a cool one to check out." The marquis advertised two free tickets to the show with a room stay for $99, much more expensive than some of the advertised rates we'd glimpsed, but for a decent room and a show, I figured it was worth it.
I may have been wrong. It might have been better to fork over $30 apiece for the show tickets and check into a newer place. Our room had seen better days. The bottom of the bathtub looked grungy, and the light in there burned out while my husband showered. The television remote control was taped together with duct tape. The Baldknobber Inn had friendly people at the front counter, but I wasn't pleased with the accommodations!
The Mabes are just one of the families that helped transform Branson into an entertainment destination. This book details the movers and shakers and introduces readers to new acts that have become popular draws for tourists - a "must have" for deciding which shows to see during your visit!
The Baldknobber Jamboree Musical Variety Show
We had to pick up the pace to get into the show on time.
After dumping our overnight bags in our room, we rushed out to walk across the parking lot to the auditorium, where my husband headed to the snack bar to purchase a couple of soft drinks as I snapped a couple of photos.
Even though April is pre-season, the theater was filled to capacity! By counting the seats in each row, and the number of rows in each section, I estimate there were more than 1,200 people in the audience.
After we took our seats, I was pleasantly surprised at the sound quality. Even though a nearby infant cried several times during the show, I was still able to hear every word onstage clearly despite being near the back of the theater - from the pre-show until the curtain closed.
The show itself lasted two hours. The performers included members of the Mabe family that originally created the Baldknobber Jamboree, as well as other performers brought in from other locations, including Iowa and Japan.
Although I found the jokes to be a bit tired initially, oft-repeated quips I'd heard before, they were clearly unfamiliar to most of the audience. Fortunately, as the show progressed, the material improved.
Vibrant musical performances were interrupted by the show's loveable characters Droopy Drawers (Tim Mabe) and Hargus Marcel (Jerl Adams) performing comedy routines that reflect life in the Ozarks like nothing else can! Droopy plays a mean washboard, and Hargus is... well, he's unique.
The musical performances included classic country hits, a few spiritual songs, and a tribute to members of the audience who served in the Armed Forces. (Military members with an ID card or DD-214 discharge papers are always allowed into the show for free.
It's the kind of show that can be enjoyed by a retiree or a kindergartner. There is no crude humor, but a healthy dose of laughter for everyone.
About the Baldknobbers
I learned a bit of trivia about the Baldknobbers that you may find interesting, too:
- A "bald knob" is a hilltop without trees. The Baldknobbers named themselves after a vigilante group. The video to the right is a brief silent film about the 1870s bald knobbers.
- The Baldknobbers Jamboree was created by Jim, Lyle, Bill, and Bob Mabe, four brothers who performed their act on the waterfront for fishermen and tourists.
- Some of the original founders' early instruments and costumes are held by the Smithsonian Institute. They were donated by the Mabe family in 2011.
More Branson Shows
Roadside stands along the way offer Branson show tickets for sale. They carry maps and discount booklets hoping to entice tourists to spend their vacation dollars.
Even though it was still spring, the traffic threatened to make me late for my appointment.This pamphlet was one I found at a Walgreens store where we stopped. The map inside proved helpful for finding the fastest routes when we found ourselves in slow traffic at the height of the morning. If we'd stayed longer, I'm sure we'd have used some of the coupons, too.
As you can see on the map, attractions line the main routes. Although there are a few shops along the strip, most of the vacation-worthy shopping can be found at the Landing. The Payne Stewart Golf Course in Branson is rated highly among golfers and just minutes from the heart of Branson. Outdoors lovers can find plenty to do, too, with three nearby lakes.
I'm lucky to live within a few hours of Branson, because I plan to go back at least once a year. I can't believe I didn't get there sooner. Now that I have gained a small taste of it, I understand how to get tickets and find out more so I won't feel intimidated about getting tickets!
To browse shows, make reservations, purchase show tickets, or see current promotions, visit the Branson Tourism Center website to avoid paying surcharges if you plan to go during the summertime.